Sounders caught up in World Cup mania

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comJune 21, 2014 

TUKWILA — Seattle Sounders FC is made up not only of soccer players, but of soccer fans.

Recent practices generally have coincided with the end of each day’s first World Cup game and the start of the second, but most players and coaches have been watching when they can.

“It’s nice just to sit back as a fan and just get excited and just put your hands to your face when they make dumb plays and exalt when they make good plays,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “To me, every four years, I think, this is the best time.”

Defender Leo Gonzalez looked on with particular interest Friday. His homeland, Costa Rica, advanced to the knockout stage with a 1-0 win against Italy.

Gonzalez watched the start of the match from the Sounders’ locker room area, but he was on the practice pitch when the final

whistle blew.

“Some guy on the team told me we won,” he said. “Enjoy the moment. … Hopefully they do very good against England and finish that part of the tournament with confidence.”

Costa Rica’s 2-0-0 record made it the first CONCACAF team to advance. However, it is only one of three teams from the North American, Central American and Caribbean region still undefeated, along with Mexico (1-0-1) and the United States (1-0-0). Honduras (0-2-0) is the only team from the confederation that has lost.

“It just shows we’re not the minnows that everybody thinks we are,” Schmid said of CONCACAF’s start.

The United States returns to action at 3 p.m. Sunday against Portugal. The Sounders will be off the training pitch by then, and the organization is hosting a viewing party for fans at Fuel Sports Eats and Beats, 164 S. Washington St., Seattle.

“Portugal, they’ve got no points, and they’ve got a bad goal differential,” Schmid said. “So for them, three points is important. A tie might not be enough for them to put them in a position to get there easily. I think Portugal is really going to go after it.”

The United States wraps up group play Thursday against Germany. Schmid made a point of avoiding a conflict when arranging the Sounders’ travel plans to Washington, D.C., for their next league match.

As much as Schmid enjoys the rare treat of watching like a fan, he also noted his players can benefit from observing the best players in the world.

“We’ve got some young players on our team,” he said. “They should be watching guys that play their position and trying to get a feel of what are certain things they do at certain times and in certain situations. There’s always opportunities to learn.”

One of those young players — rookie midfielder Fabio Pereira — has a particular interest in this World Cup. He grew up in the host nation of Brazil before moving to the United States for high school and then going on to star at the University of Michigan.

“Brazil has a lot of issues, but I don’t want to talk about that,” he said. “At the end of the day, the World Cup is there, and hopefully no problems happen and Brazil can win the whole thing.”

MARTINS RETURNS

Sounders goals co-leader Obafemi Martins returned to training Friday after being granted extended time off during the MLS World Cup break. Martins said he returned home to Nigeria to deal with family matters.

He said he does not expect to play in the U.S. Open Cup match Tuesday against San Jose at Starfire Sports Stadium. However, Schmid said a reserve role for Martins is possible.

On June 3, Martins tweeted, “I hope to stay in Seattle Sounders for long term … (Love) the fans.” He said he posted that because other clubs had expressed interest in him and he hopes to hear the Sounders’ plans for his future.

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer

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